Author Archives | Brett Kettyle

Verlander continues kicking ass, taking names in Oakland

When Justin Verlander takes the hump in the postseason against the Oakland Athletics the playing field is tilted like the Titanic in it’s final moments at sea, and the A’s are the ship itself.

For the second straight season, the A’s entered Game 5 of the ALDS with Verlander standing in their way. For the second straight season,

Photo/Wiki Commons SD Dirk

Verlander and the Detroit Tigers shut the A’s out to advance to the American League Championship Series.

Today’s start against the A’s marked the fourth time that Verlander has faced Oakland in the past two postseasons and he’s been nothing short of dominant.

In four starts against the A’s, Verlander has pitched 31 innings and allowed a single run while striking out 43 batters. That works out to an ERA of 0.29.  MLB Twitter account loved it so much they gave JV a shoutout last night before the ace was even out of the shower (see it below).

The two dominant starts (a combined 15 innings of shutout ball) came on the heels of what many would call a disappointing year for Verlander. MLB Network analyst Brian Kenny even stated it was a “great idea” for the Tigers to put him in the bullpen during the postseason at one point.

Needless to say, Jim Leyland made the right decision to keep Verlander in the rotation. After all, the subpar year that Verlander put up still worked out to a 3.46 ERA with over 200 strikeouts. For the more sabermetrically inclined, he finished the year with 5.2 fWAR, seventh best among all pitchers in baseball, though surprisingly just 3rd among Tiger pitchers.

The 2011 MVP will look to continue his postseason brilliance as the Tigers head to Boston to face the AL East Champion Red Sox in the ALCS with a trip to the World Series on the line.

Last year Verlander followed up his dominance of Oakland by allowing just a single run in eight innings against the New York Yankees as the Tigers moved onto the World Series, where Verlander cooled off, taking a loss.

Game 1 of the ALCS is Saturday night, with Verlander likely to start in Game 3 and again in Game 6 or 7 if necessary.

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Dodgers advance to NLCS, minus one jersey

As Kenley Jansen struck out Justin Upton swinging to send his Los Angeles Dodgers to the NLCS with a 4-3 win, all Braves’ closer Craig Kimbrel could do was stand and watch.

The seesaw battle at Dodgers Stadium featured the unexpected with Skip Schumaker being intentionally walked, Fredi Garcia somehow keeping the game tied through six innings against one of MLB’s best starters, Clayton Kershaw, and Dodgers’ reliever Brian Wilson ripping the clothes off a teammate in a celebration.

In the end, Dodgers Juan Uribe came away the hero while Gonzalez left the best relief pitcher in baseball in the bullpen waiting for a save situation to present itself.

The Braves seemed to have luck on their side all night, and given the pitching matchup, they needed some if they were going to send the series back to Turner Field in the ATL for a rubber match fifth game.

Despite allowing a couple solo homeruns to Crawford and working around a jam in the sixth, Freddy Garcia turned in a fantastic outing, despite the fact he took the mound about eight years past his prime.

Dodger fielding miscues allowed the Braves to tie the game in the fourth inning when two botched double plays around a wild pitch and single allowed the Braves to score a pair of runs.

Heading into the seventh, the Braves were optimistic as their journeyman starter gave them a terrific opportunity to beat the likely 2013 NL Cy Young Winner. More unlikely heroes emerged for the Braves as Elliot Johnson, claimed off waiver in August, and Jose Constanza, whose bat licking is more famous than his baseball abilities, combined a triple and pinch hit single to give Atlanta a 3-2 advantage.

With six outs to go, David Carpenter took the hump to face young sensation Yasiel Puig. Puig answered with a double to right field. As Kimbrel stood ready in the bullpen, Carpenter picked up two quick strikes on Uribe who fouled off a pair of bunt attempts. But that was followed by hanging breaking ball that Uribe deposited over the left field fence, sending the Dodgers’ faithful into a frenzy and giving his team a 4-3 lead that would turn into the final margin.

As Jansen nailed the game shut Braves fans were left wondering what might have been if their best relief pitcher had come in for a multi-inning save with the season on the line. As the Dodgers move onto the NLCS at least fans can take comfort in the fact that Fredi Gonzalez will have Kimbrel rested up for next season.

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MLB: Let the cameras make the calls!

As baseball locked in a new CBA that will keep the players and owners at peace for the next few years, they have finally opened up to the possibility of expanded instant replay.

While nothing has been finalized yet, there are discussions about using instant replay on trapped ball and fair foul calls.

While Commissioner Bud Selig seems to finally be entering the 21st century as the MLB has been behind every other major sports league in its use of replay, and while changes are typically slow to come, it’s still ridiculous that the MLB is so far behind.

There’s no question that replay could help the game. People still talk about Joe Mauer’s “foul” ball against the Yankees in the playoffs and as replays on homeruns have shown, the umps aren’t always right.

But even if the MLB institutes it for these calls, why not be able to replay out/safe calls on the bases; that would have granted a well-earned perfect game to Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga after Jim Joyce made a call that was worthy of placing him on the Three Blind Mice squad.

Although every type of play shouldn’t be reviewed, the NFL has already shown that a challenge system can be effective and then it’s on the coaches as much as anyone to make the calls.

Even within baseball, there is split support.

Giant’s player Aubrey Huff said, “We make mistakes, they make mistakes. You’re talking big home runs, that’s one thing. You’re talking out or safe at home, then why have umpires? Let the cameras make the calls. It’s just stupid”

Perhaps Huff is just remembering that the Giants might not win the 2010 World Series if not for an obviously blown out/safe call when Buster Posey stole second in the NLDS.

And it’s not just World Series history that could change, I’m sure that Galarraga would like to have his perfect game. A simple solution (like coaches challenges on anything but ball/strike calls) could fix that.

The MLB is making progress, and fair/foul calls would definitely be an improvement over the old system, but as we move forward it’s ridiculous that in the high stakes MLB, a simple blown call can cause so much havoc when it doesn’t have to.

Are you listening Mr. Selig?

Used with permission of the author.

Brett is the editor and a contributor for www.BravesFTW.com. He has covered MLB and the Braves for numerous websites and is a regular contributor to Sports Climax. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2012 Sports Climax, LLC

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Raiders botch opportunity to catch Tebow

Al Davis must be rolling in his grave after his Raiders. In a game between the Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions that had playoff implications for both teams, the Cardiac Cats were the better team, even if it took all 60 minutes to prove it.

The Lions (9-5) didn’t ice the win over the Raiders (7-7) until Ndamukong Suh blocked a 65 yard field goal attempt as time expired to preserve the Lions 28-27 win. In Suh’s first game back from a two-game suspension for stomping a Packers lineman on Thanksgiving Day, last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year didn’t make a ton of plays but he put the exclamation point on a big comeback win.

After both quarterbacks took turns dissecting the opposing defensive backfields in the first half, the Raiders seemed to take control of the game midway through the fourth quarter.

After Sebastian Janikowski hit a 51 yard “chip-shot” field goal, Aaron Curry recovered a fumble for a touchdown to give the Raiders a 13-point lead with under eight minutes to play. The Lions marched down the field to get within six but the Raiders got the ball back and had a chance to run out the clock.

After getting near midfield, the Raiders were forced to punt, and Shane Lechler nailed a beauty. The ball was downed on the two yard-line and even the Raiders weak pass defense seemed ready to stop the Lions with under three minutes to play and no timeouts remaining.

But Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson teamed up again and seemingly breezed down the field. Johnson hauled in two long passes before drawing a pass interference call to give the Lions first and goal at the Raider six. Two plays later, Stafford found Johnson in the end zone for the winning score with 39 ticks on the clock.

Megatron finished with 214 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns on a day, one a 51-yard perfect strike from Stafford. Although Lions receivers ended the day with at least eight dropped passes, Stafford still threw for 391 yards and four touchdowns while his counterpart, Carson Palmer, tallied 367 yards and a score. Neither QB threw an interception and both spent their time avoiding heavy pressure much of the day.

The teams came into the game as the top two penalized teams in the NFL and that trend continued. The Lions finished with nine penalties for 72 yards and almost shot themselves in the foot on their last drive. After getting into the red zone they had what appeared to be a costly holding penalty before Oakland bailed them out on the next play when Raiders CB Stanford Routt got called for pass interference on Johnson, setting up the Lions winning score. The Raiders were penalized 10 times for 86 yards in the game.

The Lions are in good position to clinch a playoff berth after the win and with the Bears and Giants losing are likely to be headed into the postseason for the first time since 1999.

The Raiders on the other hand lost an opportunity to catch up to Denver after Tim Tebow and his Broncos lost to the Patriots.

Used with permission of the author.

Brett is the editor and a contributor for www.BravesFTW.com. He has covered MLB and the Braves for numerous websites and is a regular contributor to Sports Climax. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

 

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Verlander adds MVP to hardware collection

For the first time since 1992, a pitcher has won one of baseball’s MVP awards. Justin Verlander, winner of the Triple Crown and the AL Cy Young award took home the honors in a split vote that saw six different players receive a first place vote.

Dennis Eckersly was the last pitcher to win the award when he did so with the Oakland Athletics in 1992 and Roger Clemens was the last starting pitcher to win back in 1986.

It’s been over 10 years since Pedro Martinez finished second back in 1999 with a season that was more impressive than Verlander’s and it seemed a long shot for Verlander to win even after absolutely dominating the American League and being one of only two star players on a Detroit team that went on to win a Division Title.

As with most major award voting, a strong case can be made for other candidates, but Verlander seems incredibly deserving for leading a Tigers team into the playoffs after many writers picked them to finish behind Chicago and Minnesota.

According to baseball-reference.com’s WAR formula, Verlander tied for the AL lead with 8.5 WAR. The player he tied with, Jose Bautista didn’t make the playoffs and played on the fourth place Toronto Blue Jays. Bautista finished third in the voting.

According to the Fangraphs version of WAR, there were other players (even one other pitcher, CC Sabathia) that finished with a higher number than Verlander.

But in the old school stats, which so many times dominate award voting, Verlander cleaned up. The pitching Triple Crown was an incredible accomplishment, and Verlander also led the league in innings pitched and WHIP while coming in second in xFIP.

Verlander is the fifth Tigers player to win the MVP award. Despite the fact that hitters have won the award the vast majority of the time, all five of the Tigers winners have come on the mound.

Used with permission of the author.

Brett is the editor and a contributor for www.BravesFTW.com. He has covered MLB and the Braves for numerous websites and is a regular contributor to Sports Climax. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Kidnapped MLB player Ramos rescued

Earlier this week, Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped in his native Venezuela where he had returned to play baseball this winter but after an intense investigation into the abduction, Venezuelan police commandos swooped in to rescue him in a remote mountainous area.

The police then arrested three alleged abductors and a helicopter picked up Ramos and flew him out of the area to safety.

The armed abductors took Ramos from his home at gunpoint 50 hours prior to his rescue and sped away in an SUV. Since that time, they never had contact with authorities until they were cuffed and arrested.

Ramos, a 24 year catcher originally from Carabobo, Venezuela, was coming off of his first season as a starter and is one of the building blocks to help make the Washington Nationals relevant in the baseball world for the first time.

Kidnapping has been a big problem in Venezuela in recent years and Luis Cedeno, a Venezuelan security expert still believes that Ramos was kidnapped by a group with purely economic means. He also stated that the group like this one normally kidnaps one or two victims a year but uses their time to thoroughly plan out their crimes.

Venezuelan authorities first recovered the car used in the kidnapping then the investigation later led to the mountainous region where Ramos was found and rescued.

According to one MLB official, this is the first time a Major League Baseball player has been kidnapped.

There have been cases of MLB players relatives getting kidnapped in Venezuela in recent years. Former pitcher Victor Zambrano’s mother and cousin were kidnapped and while authorities rescued the mother his cousin was killed.

Catcher Yorvit Torrealba’s son and brother in law were both kidnapped in 2009 and released a day later.

In another case not related to MLB, a banker was kidnapped and held for nearly a year before being released after ransom money was paid.

The Venezuelan League did not cancel games despite the kidnapping. At games on Thursday a moment of silence was held for Ramos and a Green W was embroidered onto jerseys as a tribute to Ramos.

Used with permission of the author.

Brett is the editor and a contributor for www.BravesFTW.com. He has covered MLB and the Braves for numerous websites and is a regular contributor to Sports Climax. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Broncos ground game wins one for Tebow

In his third start this season, Tim Tebow showed that he still doesn’t look anything like a typical NFL passer but he did, however, show that he can run the option in the NFL almost as smoothly as he did in college at Florida.

Tebow, Willis McGahee and company piled up 298 yards on the ground while leading the Denver Broncos to a 38-24 come from behind victory over their division rival Oakland Raiders.

The Raiders got off to a strong start despite playing without offensive star Darren McFadden but couldn’t hold their lead as they were outscored 14-0 in the fourth quarter and Tebow improved to 2-1 as a starter.

Tebow put up a mere 124 yards through the air while completing less than 50% of his passes but he threw a pair of touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over. He also picked up 118 yards on the ground, which helped the Broncos put up a season high 38 points.

In the end though, it was the rest of the Broncos team that had more to do with their win than Tebow.

Eddie Royal returned a punt for a touchdown to in the fourth quarter for the winning score and Willis McGahee, who ran 20 times for 163 yards, scored his second touchdown late in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

The Raiders offense looked much better than it did against the Kansas City Chiefs but Carson Palmer still threw three interceptions to go along with three touchdown passes. While he put up 332 yards in the air, his late interceptions were costly to the team.

Michael Bush had a great day filling in for Darren McFadden with 129 total yards and a touchdown, but it wasn’t enough as the Raiders defense couldn’t keep the Broncos off the scoreboard.

The Broncos win makes the AFC West even more a muddled mess than before. The Raiders, Chargers and Chiefs all lost and are tied for the division lead at 4-4 while the Broncos sit just a game back at 3-5.

Despite another lackluster passing performance, the Broncos win will fuel a week of discussion about whether or not Tebow can lead the team to the playoffs.

Denver faces the Chiefs next week while the Raiders play the Chargers, so the division picture should get clearer with a pair of divisional matchups.

Used with permission of the author.

Brett is the editor and a contributor for www.BravesFTW.com. He has covered MLB and the Braves for numerous websites and is a regular contributor to Sports Climax. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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MLB offeseason moves off to hot start

Just a week after the St. Louis Cardinals finished winning the 2011 World Series the MLB offseason is already off to a hot start.

In player transaction news, the Braves quickly moved the under performing Derek Lowe to the Cleveland Indians for a minor league player and $5 million in salary relief. The Braves were forced to eat two thirds of Lowe’s contract but having $5 million back gives them some flexibility, especially since Lowe wasn’t slated to be in the Braves 2012 rotation.

The Yankees quickly made a big move as well; locking up CC Sabathia for another five years after he was one of the team’s few reliable starters in 2011. Sabathia had an opt-out clause in his previous contract, and the Yankees didn’t want to head into free agency with a rotation featuring Ivan Nova and A.J. Burnett.

Photo/Wikimedia Commons

Moving into the front office, where a number of notable moves have been made, the Yankees brought back General Manger Brian Cashman for another three years.

Tony LaRussa’s retirement a few days after winning the World Series was just one of a handful of managerial moves.

Terry Francona and Theo Epstein both left Boston before the World Series was over, but the Cubs (who got Epstein) are continuing to make changes. Mike Quade was fired so that the Cubs can get a fresh start under Epstein and it appears Epstein may be going after Francona.

While the baseball offseason typically starts off slow this season has been an exception. Sabathia could have been the biggest pitcher on the free agent market which now looks incredibly thin at his position.

Other playoff contenders will look to either resign or replace stars Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jimmy Rollins. In a notably thin pitching market, C.J. Wilson could fetch a huge amount of money and some team may be willing to shell out a boatload of cash to bid on Yu Darvish, the Japanese prospect pictured here.

After a thrilling stretch run that saw two teams make the playoffs on the last day and a terrific World Series, baseball’s offseason is off to a hot start and should keep things interesting all winter.

Used with permission of the author.

Brett is the editor and a contributor for www.BravesFTW.com. He has covered MLB and the Braves for numerous websites and is a regular contributor to Sports Climax. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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La Russa goes out a winner

Following the St. Louis Cardinals magical run to the playoffs in September and to a World Series Title this past season Tony La Russa announced that he is retiring.

A winner of three World Series titles (one with the Oakland Athletics, two with St. Louis) and one of two men to win a Championship in both leagues, La Russa is stepping down after 33 years of managing.

La Russa finishes third on the all-time managerial wins list and likely could have caught John McGraw for second place had he stayed around another season. However, for managers of over 600 games, La Russa doesn’t even crack the top 40 for top winning percentage.

Following the Cardinals World Series Championship, the 67-year-old La Russa announced to the team that he wouldn’t be returning, which caught some of them by surprise. No other manager has retired almost immediately after leading his team to a World Series Title.

La Russa stated that he informed Cardinals GM John Mozeliak that this would be his final season back in August, long before the Cardinals began their tear down the stretch that led to St. Louis’ 11th World Series Title.

Recent years have seen a number of managerial greats retire, and La Russa will be eligible to head to the Hall-of-Fame the same year as Bobby Cox and Joe Torre (who are 4th and 5th on the all-time wins list).

A four time manager of the year (who has a shot to win it again this year) La Russa loved to tinker with his lineups (he occasionally batted the pitcher 8th) and bullpen to get the most out of his players.

Unlike so many others, he had the chance to go out on top and took it, as the Cardinals likely would have had him back regardless of what he said in August after their spectacular finish.

The biggest issue facing the Cardinals next season is whether or not superstar Albert Pujols will come back, something that could have made La Russa’s job much more difficult if he walked. Since 1986, La Russa has coached just one and a half seasons without Mark McGwire or Pujols on his teams.

There is also a chance that La Russa’s longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan will retire before next season.

Hired for the first time as a manager in 1979 with the Chicago White Sox, La Russa finishes with a number of accomplishments. Aside from the Series Titles and all the wins, La Russa led his teams to 12 division titles and six pennants and finished second all time for postseason wins.

For the Cardinals, the search for a new manager will likely begin immediately. With baseball’s offseason already in full swing (Derek Lowe has been traded and CC Sabathia re-signed) they will need to deal with their own outgoing free agents and begin putting together next year’s team.

For La Russa, it’s time to start enjoying things besides baseball. He stated he may be open to working in baseball sometime in the future, but not after a nice vacation. He was at the St. Louis Rams game this weekend and joked about his future occupation: “Maybe [I’ll] open a bookstore.”

Used with permission of the author.

Brett is the editor and a contributor for www.BravesFTW.com. He has covered MLB and the Braves for numerous websites and is a regular contributor to Sports Climax. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Cardinals win WS after Rangers collapse

Josh Hamilton can suggest that God said that he would hit a homerun in Game 6, but in the end the Cardinals were the team of destiny. Completing an impressive run that saw them take advantage of the Braves September collapse to make the playoffs on the final day of the season, the Cardinals came back from a 3-2 deficit to win their second World Series in the past six years.

While it took the Cardinals seven games to clinch the title, everyone will remember Game 6 when the Rangers were one strike/pitch away from winning their first Championship in franchise history but couldn’t close the game out.

Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning in St. Louis, the Cardinals were down by two runs. Series MVP David Freese came up with two out and runners on first and second. Despite the Rangers outfielder playing extremely deep to take away extra base hits, Freese rocketed a ball past Nelson Cruz for a triple which tied the game.

In the 10th inning, the Cardinals were faced with more of the same. After the Rangers took a 9-7 lead on Josh Hamilton’s homerun, the Cardinals cut the deficit to one while making the second out of the inning. Lance Berkman singled to centerfield to tie the game and extend it into the 11th inning.

After the Rangers were retired by Jake Westbrook, David Freese came up against Mark Lowe in the bottom of the 11th and deposited a 3-2 pitch over the wall to win the game for the Cardinals and extend the series.

Game 7 wasn’t nearly as climatic, but it got off to a hot start as both teams scored a pair of runs in the first inning. The Rangers threatened to add more in the second, but were shut down by Chris Carpenter with two men on base.

Allan Craig hit a blast to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead in the third inning and the pitching staff took care of the rest. Carpenter worked six strong innings (completing a terrific series in which he made three starts, never allowing more than two runs) and the Rangers never got a runner past second base after the second inning. In the end, the Cards coasted to a 6-2 win and Freese took home the extra piece of hardware.

The Cardinals bullpen shut down all nine batters they faced and Jason Motte retired David Murphy on a flyball to left field to clinch for the Cardinals.

The Cardinals pitching staff did a terrific job against the Rangers after struggling through the NLCS. Mike Napoli, Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre had great series but the Rangers lineup scored just over 4 runs a game, much lower than in the ALCS.

After surviving the regular season and coming back from a 2-1 hole to beat the Phillies in the first round. The St. Louis Cardinals are the 2011 World Series Champions; have to wonder what God has told Josh Hamilton about that.

Used with permission of the author.

Brett is the editor and a contributor for www.BravesFTW.com. He has covered MLB and the Braves for numerous websites and is a regular contributor to Sports Climax. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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